Mississippi legislature passes first TANF increase in more than 20 years

Mississippi legislature passes first TANF increase in more than 20 years

JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Mississippi lawmakers have given the green light to an increase in the monthly TANF checks. It would be the first increase to the payments in more than 20 years.

Ann Washington is now raising her three granddaughters, receiving $170 dollars from TANF or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families each month.

“I don’t know why they would think it’s just a handout or people like well... that’s welfare,” explained Washington. “No, it’s help. It’s not much but it helps. And anything helps in my book.”

Washington says she welcomes any boost in the amount with costs of caring for the 5, 6 and 10 year old adding up.

“Groceries is the biggest thing for me with three girls and they’re growing,” added Washington.

TANF recipients aren’t getting a huge windfall each month. But with the Governor’s signature, the monthly amount would go up by $90. So, a family of three would see the check go from $170 to $260.

“I’ll still have some worry there but... it will help,” Washington described.

Matt Williams with the Mississippi Low-Income Childcare Initiative helped shed some light on the most common TANF recipients.

“Really when we look at the data in Mississippi, mostly single moms with young children who are working to support their families and who need to earn higher wages and who need access to the kind of support system that public safety net programs can provide when they center the needs of people,” said Williams.

He says the increase puts the state closer in line with neighboring states pay out. But...

“The challenge ahead is going to be getting more people connected to TANF,” William said. “Mississippi, we have a high poverty rate. We have hundreds of thousands of people below the poverty level.”

Still, TANF is going to around 3,000 Mississippians currently.

Mississippi Department of Human Service Executive Director Bob Anderson says the increase will provide some additional support until they can get on their feet on their own.

”I think what it means for them is maybe they can pay the light bill without coming back to us and asking for LIHEAP assistance,” said Anderson. “Maybe it means they can buy that child in the home a new suit of clothes or a new pair of shoes. Not too many pairs of shoes these days but they can do some things that they couldn’t do at $170 a month.”

The proposed increase to the monthly checks won’t be an added cost to the state. DHS receives block grants from the federal government. And this would redirect more money to the TANF program without jeopardizing the other services being provided.

The bill is written in such a way that the law will become effective immediately, meaning families will see the increase sooner.

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